Keen to avoid any further confrontations with monkeys (clearly they have the ascendency in Shimla), we caught a bus back down to Chandigarh and on to Amritsar.
Punjab is the heartland of Sikhism and Amritsar is, of course, the site of the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s most holy shrine. It is somewhat ironic that the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Devi Ji’s central premise was that “all human beings can have direct access to God with no need of rituals or priests” and yet here is one of the most beautiful ritual-rich temples you could hope to find anywhere on the planet.
The Golden Temple is part of a larger complex, the Harmindar Sahib, which in turn sits in a precinct of shops and other businessses based around the activities of the faith and the visiting pilgrims.
The entire temple precinct is mandated as vegetarian, and restaurants are prohibited from serving animal products. This young lady seemed pretty happy about that, even if she did look a little embarrassed by her outfit.
This hasn’t stopped McDonalds opening a store in the precinct, which should be the last place in India it would get any traction.
What, exactly, is in the ‘ham’ burgers? We didn’t ask.
The area surrounding the temple is pedestrianised and from well before dawn to late at night, the streets literallly throng with pilgrims making their way to and from the complex.
Inside the wallled temple complex, the Golden Temple is surrounded by a large tank (water pool) with all-marble surrounds.
The entire place has a serene, spiritual feel, despite the crowds.
Pilgrims believe the water is holy and many bathe in the tank. Unlike the Ganges River at Varanasi, the water is pristine and the surrounds are scrupulously clean.
The tank is also inhabited by giant goldfish.
The Temple looks even more spectacular at night.